Public stormwater campaigns must consider the needs and values of audiences in order to inspire homeowners, business owners and community groups to change behaviors to decrease stormwater pollution. Inspiring lasting behavior changes—from picking up pet waste and raking leaves properly to installing pervious pavers and using silt fencing—requires strategic thinking and planning. Bluestem Communications has used social marketing planning tools to help stormwater professionals create compelling messages and effective materials.

Values-based communication strategies create social change by building personal connections to an issue. Pioneered by Bluestem Communications in the 1990s, values-based communications draws on the values or beliefs that a person already has to inspire both attitude and behavior change. Values are broad ideas and are deeply held: community pride, personal responsibility, each generation should have it better than the last, equality for all. When developing values-based messages and strategies, communications professionals consider an audience’s values and try to relate the problem to those values through specifically chosen pathways. Values-based appeals speak to a person’s emotions, hopes and fundamental beliefs.

We connect values to desired behavior changes—even those as simple as picking up pet waste.

Bluestem Communications works with municipalities, coalitions and nonprofit organizations to integrate values-based communications into programs and education campaigns to reduce stormwater pollution.


Stormwater Education Campaign Strategy
Dublin, Ohio
The city of Dublin, Ohio, has been one of the fastest growing communities in central Ohio since the 1980s. Its strategic location near Columbus, beautiful natural features like waterfalls and ravines, rolling farmland and historic downtown create a community that is both welcoming to guests and comforting to residents. City planners work to maintain this quality of life by proactively updating services and educating their citizens on important environmental issues.

Bluestem Communications worked with Dublin city managers to plan communications campaigns to reduce stormwater pollution in compliance with EPA standards. Together we designed subject- and audience-specific campaign strategies to motivate residents to change stormwater-related behaviors. Campaigns targeted leaf disposal, fertilizer runoff from lawns, watering and sprinkler use and rain barrels. Using background research, public opinion surveys, and focus groups, we created a communications roadmap for each targeted behavior change.